Pakistan’s public airline has announced that it will ground 150 pilots, accusing them of having obtained licenses by passing exams by others, a charge following an investigation into the accident last month who killed 98 people in Karachi.
Abdullah Hafeez, spokesman for Pakistan International Airlines, did not provide further details on the alleged fraud but said that a pilot dismissal process had been initiated.
“We will make sure these unqualified pilots never fly again,” he told the Associated Press. He said passenger safety was the airline’s top priority.
Alarmed by the situation, the International Air Transport Association said it was following Pakistan’s information “regarding the false pilot licenses, which concern and represent a serious flaw in the licensing and supervision of safety by the aviation regulator “.
The world airline organization has said it is looking for more information.
The PIA’s decision to block the pilots comes a day after the country’s aviation minister, Ghulam Sarwar Khan, said that 262 of the 860 Pakistani pilots had “fake” licenses. He made the revelation while presenting the preliminary conclusions of an investigation in the Parliament on the crash of the Airbus A320 of May 22.
The announcement stunned politicians in the National Assembly and shocked family members of passengers who died last month when flight PK8303 fell after leaving the eastern city of Lahore, crashing in a congested residential area of Karachi. The accident killed 98 people, including 97 passengers and crew members, as well as a girl on the ground. There were only two survivors on board the aircraft.
Neither Mr. Khan nor Mr. Hafeez has published additional details on the alleged methods used by pilots to improperly obtain licenses to fly commercial aircraft.
Mr. Khan only stated that they did not pass the exams themselves to obtain the required certificates, which are issued by the civil aviation authority. But officials familiar with the licensing process have said that an unspecified number of people with the skills to fly an aircraft but lacking technical knowledge have in the past bribed qualified people to take exams for them. They did not elaborate.
Officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter, said Pakistan International Airlines learned of the scandal two years ago and had fired at least four pilots at the helicopter. ‘accused of falsifying examinations to obtain a license from the Civil Aviation Authority.
Mr. Hafeez said that notices were issued to all pilots who he believed had corrupt licenses.
Shortly after the May 22 crash, Pakistan announced that it would investigate the incident and share its findings.
In presenting the preliminary findings of the investigation to Parliament on Wednesday, Khan said that the pilot, before making his first failed landing attempt, ignored warnings from the air traffic control tower when he was told that the plane was too high to land. However, he stated that the pilot and co-pilot were medically fit and qualified to fly.
The accident occurred when the aircraft attempted to land a second time. At that time, air traffic control told the pilot three times that the plane was too low to land, but refused to listen, saying he would get out, said Mr. Khan. The Minister added that, for its part, air traffic control did not inform the pilots of the damage to the engines after the first failed attempt to land the aircraft.
“The aircraft’s engines were damaged when they cleared the runway, but air traffic control did not inform the pilot,” he said.